Monday, September 24, 2007

We Can Be Heroes

The second season of Heroes starts up today. I was a latecomer to the series, having just watched the entire first season on DVD this past week. The reason I ignored it the first time 'round was that I was under the mistaken assumption it was some wacky riff on X-Men, however it's a serial drama more along the lines of Lost. Somewhat ironically, I find the unconvincing special effects to be one of the show's weaker points, but it's the interesting characters and compelling storyline that pulls it along... though the first season had a plotline that seemed to blatantly rip-off Alan Moore's Watchmen. But that's a whole other matter not worth griping about. To kick off this new season of Heroes, I've got a couple "Heroes" songs plus a batch of covers of David Bowie's Heroes.

But first, I have to tell you about a crossover event that befits a new season of television upon us. Not since the Ninja turtles teamed up with Winnie the Pooh to fight the war on drugs has there been a such a collaboration. Well, I'm exaggerating slightly, but this week I got to be a guest blogger over on Covering the Mouse! Head over there right now to hear Heroes star Hayden Pannettiere (Claire Bennet) croon about a classic Disney villain. And with the new NHL season nearly upon us too, here's an awesome picture of Hayden and the Stanley Cup.

Not sure what the occasion was, but there's a bunch of photos of her and Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli) goofing around with the cup over here. Yep, in Canada the new hockey season is more anticipated than any other TV show. This season's looking sketchy at best for the ol' home team, but Go Oilers!

The Beach Boys - Heroes & Villains
This is as good an excuse as any to pull out my favourite Beach Boys song.

Ben Folds - Hiro's Song
No, this is not about the lovable time-travellin' Hiro Nakamura. It's about an older Japanese businessman who "leaves his family for the secretary" who happens to be his daughter's best friend from high school. Happy times. In a way, it's fun to imagine it is about future Hiro or an alternate reality Hiro.

A smattering of Covers of David Bowie's Heroes:
Flight - Heroes
The Magnetic Fields - Heroes
The Wallflowers - Heroes
Meg Lee Chin - Heroes
Oasis - Heroes
Wil Seabrook - Heroes
Zkippy Stardust - Heroes (live)
Nico - Heroes

Philip Glass - Heroes
Philip Glass - Heroes (Aphex Twin remix)
In 1996, composer Philip Glass wrote a symphony based on David Bowie's album 1977 Heroes. It's based on Heroes rather than an outright cover, since you'd be hard-pressed to recognize many similarities to the original. Interestingly though, electronic artist Aphex Twin did a remix of the song, inserting Bowie's original vocals.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Over the past couple years, I reckon I've posted close to 30 Zeppelin covers. Here are some more:

Ann & Nancy Wilson - The Battle of Evermore (live)
Did you know Heart started off as a Led Zeppelin tribute band? Strange but true (at least I think it's true). This underrated track from Zeppelin IV probably has the most blatant Tolkien allusions of all their songs.

Ike & Tina Turner - Whole Lotta Love
One of the grooviest Zeppelin covers.

Pride & Glory - In My Time of Dyin'
From Physical Graffiti, this was Zeppelin's longest track and one of my favourites. It's 2 minutes longer than Freebird, yet somehow never drags. Originally a traditional folk song recorded by Blind Willie Johnson, a version also appeared on Bob Dylan's debut album. But Zeppelin takes it and runs away with it like only Zeppelin can. Pride & Glory was a one-off side project by Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde.

Michael Armstrong - The Rain Song
From those Rockabye Baby! albums.

Orchestre National de Jazz - Black Dog
From an entire Zeppelin orchestral album called Close to Heaven. Though this is not your typical orchestra.

Dread Zeppelin - Heartbreaker (At the End of Lonely Street)
Robert Plant once said Dread Zeppelin was his favourite Zeppelin cover band. Joke or no joke, their my favourite too. Reggae-tinged Zeppelin with an Elvis impersonator on lead vocals? It works, I tells ya!

DJ Z-Trip - Zed Triplen (live)
A live remix of Custard Pie and other snippets.

Mutual Admiration Society - Gallows Pole (live)
Mutual Admiration Society was a collaboration between Nickel Creek and Glen Phillips (formerly of Toad the Wet Sprocket). Mr. John Paul Jones himself toured with them as a special guest and I guess they weren't immune to pulling out a couple ol' Zeppelin tracks!

Now scoring some tickets to that reunion show is going to be a major challenge, but we'll see... fingers crossed!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Rumours have been swirling and today it was confirmed: the 3 remaining members of Led Zeppelin are reuniting for a one-off show November 26, 2007 at London's 02 arena.

My brain has officially exploded. This is the biggest rock news since, uh, The White Stripes' epic tour of Canada. By the way, did you hear they canceled the rest of their North American tour since Meg's suffering from acute anxiety? Poor girl. Hope she gets better and it's not ominous news for the future of the band.

Anyway, at first I scoffed at the £125 tickets and the thought of airfare to London... but then I thought (for better or worse) money's for chumps! Some people buy fancy cars, nice clothes, or big houses. I go on dream trips.

Tickets are only available via a draw that you register for here. Not long after the announcement, the site crashed due to traffic and as of now is still down.

When I get home from work I'm going to do a Zeppelin cover post. Woooooooooooo!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Whole New Blog

There's a new face in the Covers neighbourhood this week: Covering the Mouse. That would be reason enough to celebrate, but even moreso due to the fact that this new music blog devoted to Disney cover songs. I repeat, DISNEY COVER SONGS. The music of Disney films and television shows has been ingrained in our collective childhoods across the globe, which makes it a prime source for cover songs. I've been known on more than one occasion to post Disney covers myself since it is one of my favourite sub-categories of cover songs, so naturally it's my new favourite blog. And the blogger's a fellow Canuck to boot, which is totally irrelevant but makes me happy nonetheless.

Now to celebrate, this would be brilliant time to pull out my non-existent cover of The Unbirthday Song. Instead here's a couple gems from my Disney covers collection:

The Bedroom Orchestra - You've Got a Friend in Me (live) [originally by Randy Newman from Toy Story]
Here's a great acoustic cover from BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, a show known for getting its guest to perform unlikely covers. It also has a grating host in Jo Whiley who gushes over her guests to a degree that makes me cringe, or at least that's the impression I get from the snippets of dialogue that often surround the live lounge recordings. Luckily, you won't hear any of her in this cover of the beloved Toy Story song performed by The Bedroom Orchestra, who by all accounts is a one-man band. Is this disconnect between band names and number of band members a recent trend?

Watkins Family Hour - Not in Nottingham (live) [originally from Robin Hood]
This song is wonderfully bittersweet song from Robin Hood, one of my fav's of the Disney catalogue. I can just picture the slow pan across the sad animal residents of Nottingham shackled up in the town jail. Ooh, that rascally Sheriff! To find a cover of this at all is exciting, let alone a live cover by the Watkins Family Hour. At the core, the Watkins Family Hour is Sean and Sara Watkins, two-thirds of Nickel Creek, playing host to a variety of musical guests (predominantly at The Largo in LA) that have included the likes of Grant-Lee Phillips, Jon Brion, Fiona Apple, Glen Phillips, and many more. The fact that The Ditty Bops accompanied them on that particular night at The Largo is just icing on the cake.

So add Covering the Mouse to your bookmarks immediately! And there's even an accompanying Facebook group you can join, if you're so inclined (and I am). Welcome, welcome!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jason Webley & Amanda Palmer & Evelyns

Here's a treat if you're a fan of Jason Webley, The Dresden Dolls, or both. I just got the word from Jason's mailing list that his latest collaboration is ready to be pre-ordered. It's the long-awaited (by me anyway) project that Jason Webley worked on with Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls. Earlier this summer, Jason was booking his own tour dates and sent out a mass e-mail asking if he should come to Edmonton and/or Calgary (a rare question from ANY artist). Of course, I responded a resounding yes, but unfortunately the proposed date that he was available clashed with our city's Folk Fest (death to other concurrent live music acts). So he went to Calgary and not Edmonton, but I thought it was way cool he asked and even personally responded. If you're unfamiliar with Jason Webley, google his brilliantly catchy song Eleven Saints. Incidentally, I found out about him last year from Neil Gaiman's journal, who also turned me onto The Ditty Bops a few years back. Impeccable taste, that fellow.

All you really need to know about the collaboration is that it's Jason, Amanda, and conjoined twin sisters both named Evelyn. It's a 3-song 7" vinyl with a 6-track bonus CD and one of the songs is a cover of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart. Act fast since there will only be 1,111 copies made and apparently the Dresden Dolls mailing will be notified Thursday. Full story and ordering details here.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting on Amanda's debut solo album, which is being produced by Mr. Ben Folds. I still haven't gotten over the cancelled Ben Folds cruise, on which Amanda would have been a special guest.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bird & Bordello

Today I'm off to Vancouver for the long weekend and checking out two exciting concerts: Andrew Bird & Gogol Bordello. In August 2005, I checked off Ben Folds and The White Stripes from list of must-see-artists-before-I-die gigs and said "Next up, Andrew Bird and Harvey Danger". The following summer, I checked The Dresden Dolls and The Living End off the list. This was another good summer, adding 5 more White Stripes dates and having seen the Squirrel Nut Zippers for the first time. And now I'll get to make good on that vow to see Andrew Bird (Harvey Danger will have to wait until possibly later this year when I move closer to Seattle).

[An unexpected X-mas gift from Andrew Bird. I've yet to decipher the chicken scratches under his signature.]

In a nutshell, I jumped on the Andrew Bird bandwagon after I went through all the Squirrel Nut Zippers CDs at the library and started delving into their extended musical family tree. Andrew Bird was dubbed an honourary member of the Zippers, though I'm not entirely sure about the distinction since he played on practically every album and toured with them. In any event, he put out a couple albums of old style jazz albums with his band Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. It was 2001's The Swimming Hour that really blew me away with several outstanding songs that rank among my top iTunes playcounts. It was quite a departure from his earlier jazz/swing albums, exploring several different genres but always putting his distinct mark on it. Strangely, this album has been criticized for being too derivative due to its mélange of styles and was even dubbed by some fans (this really floors me) for being too commercial. I imagine that was just a kneejerk reaction from fans of his early material, thinking he was going to do remake those first two albums forever and ever. In fact, I think it's this album where he's starting to find his own distinctive voice that would evolve into his later albums.

The Swimming Hour (2001)
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - Case in Point
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - 11:11

His last three albums are Weather Systems, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, and this year's Armchair Apocrypha. This is where we start to see a shift in his music to a more experimental, eclectic, indie... well, it's difficult to classify except it's distinctly Andrew Bird. At this point, I'd advise just listening to his music and see where it takes you since my words will not do it justice.

The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
Andrew Bird - Opposite Day
Andrew Bird - Skin Is, My

Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Andrew Bird - Heretics

And I haven't even talked about his live show, which should prove to be incredible. He's known for extensive use of the looping pedal to construct songs out of thin air by himself, though in the past year or two he's enlisted Martin Dosh as a percussionist. I wonder if he still plays his older stuff... I'm hoping so, but I doubt it.

Something interesting I discovered the other day... Final Fantasy (AKA Owen Pallett) posted on a message board about meeting Andrew Bird and discussing the inevitable comparisons people make (myself included) between the two and also Patrick Wolf (who I admittedly haven't heard). Apparently Andrew complimented Owen on his "'Nervous Tic' rip-off". Now this piqued my interest and after looking into it, I found this:

Cadence Weapon with Final Fantasy - Sharks (live)
On the CBC Radio show Fuse, two seemingly incongruent musical acts are thrown together. Here, local Edmontonian hip-hop artist Cadence Weapon raps over music provided by Final Fantasy, which is in fact sampled from Andrew Bird's Imitosis and A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left. Hearing that totally made my day.

OK, I'm going to have to wrap this up so I can catch some ZZZ's before I catch my plane. The other concert I'm going to which should be another unreal experience is Gogol Bordello, whom I posted about before in February. I first caught wind of the band last year when I saw Wristcutters: A Love Story at the Edmonton Film Fest. In the film, one of the lead characters was inspired by Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz and their music was featured as well. Then I would later see Eugene Hütz himself in Liev Schreiber's film Everything is Illuminated starring opposite Elijah Wood. Tickets for the show were an unbelievable $17.50 each, but it took me so long to confirm time off from work that it was sold out and I had to get them off eBay. I wasn't completely gouged, but it would've been nice to get them at face value in the first place.

Gogol Bordello - Sally
Gogol Bordello - Mishto

Madonna featuring Gogol Bordello - La Isla Bonita
There's a video from this year's Live Earth concert (I think it was taken off youtube, but you can google it elsewhere), where Madonna specifically invited Gogol Bordello members Eugene Hütz and Sergey Ryabtsev to help perform a remix of her classic song La Isla Bonita. It was completely surreal. While Madonna and her crew of male model back-up dancers pranced about their carefully choreographed routine, the real stars were Ryabtsev on violin, injecting some life into the performance, and a lanky, bug-eyed, mustachioed Hütz strumming and dancing as though he was a madman caught on the wrong stage and didn't care. Eugene is also starring in Madonna's directoral debut, a short film called Filth and Wisdom, which required him to dress in drag. Madonna asked him "How do you feel about dressing up as a woman?" to which he replied "Well, as long as it's a woman with a moustache, I'm there."

See you next Wednesday.